Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Better After Broken

Nothing breaks a child’s heart like a broken toy.

Growing up in the die-cast robot boom of the 70s and 80s, I’ve had my share of invincible Earth-saviors get snapped somewhere along their plastic parts, often dealing a fatal blow to its play value. A snapped joint, a cracked panel, a detached head, anything that adversely affected the toy’s function was just too painful to look at. You could spend the whole day looking for a missing accessory or an “oh-no-where-did-it-go?” rocket punch; but a broken toy is its own circle of hell. I don’t know about you, but every time I broke a toy, I could feel its angry eyes burning into my soul just how carelessly stupid I was. Sorry about your windshield and roof, Transformers Gen 1 Bluestreak. Sorry about your leg Orguss Nikick. Sorry to all the toys I broke before, that I couldn’t do then what I could do now.

Fast forward a few decades in to the future, and my childhood traumas have turned me into a tool and DIY enthusiast. My tools are now my new playthings. They occupy a space in my home alongside the Transformers and Super-Robots that I still avidly collect. Long story short, I got hooked on woodworking, knife making, leather work, and other restoration crafts over the recent years following a life-changing operation (a story which I’ll save for another day). Thus, I’m honored to be the preferred toy surgeon at the request of elgoodo7; the Orion Pax to my Dion.

What follows is my third repair for elgoodo7, whom I thank for trusting in my skills, and who has invited me to be a contributor on his blog. Now, let’s get into our most recent piece of work.

Today’s patient is a third-party Air Raid that snapped at the neck, specifically at the ball-join stem. Unfortunately, I don’t often document my work-in-progress, so I apologize in advance if I’ve skipped any visual steps.

The materials I used to repair are the following:

1) A pin vice or mini hand drill.
2) Some CA glue.
3) A dressmaker’s pin.
4) Locking pliers.
5) Cutting pliers.
6) 120 grit Sandpaper
7) A precision phillips screwdriver
8) A neodymium magnet

First, I detached the neck joint from the toy itself to make things easier to work with. It wasn’t pinned, so detaching it from the torso wasn’t much trouble. Using the pin vice, I attached a drill bit that was roughly the diameter of the dressmaker’s pin and began to drill the ball join base slowly by hand. I was being very careful to advance as straight as possible. I just eyeballed this whole process, using the cutting mat’s lines as my guide.

Next, I inserted the dressmaker's pin through the bottom of the ball joint base, and affixed it with CA glue. The pin provides a strong internal structure. I usually apply the CA glue along the length of the pin before inserting, so the glue can fill in any spaces and provide a secure seal (a lesson I learned from assembling knife handles with pins and epoxy). The head of the pin serves as a stop, similar to a rivet head. Given that the joint would be subjected to pulling forces, I wouldn’t want that pin getting pulled out.

Once that’s done, I drilled through the ball joint stem with the pin vice using the locking pliers to hold the tiny piece in place. Again, doing my best to keep the drilling as straight as possible.

After drilling, I inserted the ball joint stem through the pin, affixed with CA glue along its length, with an extra drop added to the base.

I made sure to use the locking pliers during the insertion to avoid stupidly stabbing myself, and bonding the piece permanently to myself.

To deal with the excess pin sticking out, I used some cutting pliers to clip the pin as close to the joint as possible, then used a tiny scrap of 120 grit sandpaper to sand the pin absolutely flush.

Attached the ball joint back into Air Raid's body, and it looks pretty good.

Air Raid’s head was too tight to pop back onto the ball joint, and after all that hard work, I wasn’t about to risk another repair cycle. Using the precision phillips driver, I disassembled the head, assembled it around the newly-repaired joint, and screwed everything back together. You can see the neodymium magnet near the screwdriver’s tip that helped hold the screw in place.

The rest is history, and elgoodo7 is happy!

There you have it. A skill born from my traumatic childhood experiences as a toy collector. Without a doubt, my kids (and occasionally the wifey) have been benefiting from my gift to build, repair and restore things around the house.

Every one of us passes through childhood with all our happiest, saddest, and most impressing moments forming us into the adults and kids-at-heart we are today. Growing up, there’s more than enough for a child to go through.

Suffering a broken heart over a broken toy doesn’t have to be one of them.


Lui is one of my oldest friends dating back almost 30 years!  I acquired my very first Masterpiece Transformer, MP-01 Optimus Prime from him.  

Find Doctor Lui and more of his amazing work on Facebook and Instagram